Simplifying the Switch: Tackling Common Worries of Raw Feeding Beginners
At NorthPoint Pets, we understand that diving into a new diet for your pet can feel daunting–especially a transition from a dry kibble diet to one of fresh food. That’s why we have compiled a series of common concerns and their answers about switching to a fresh or raw food diet. To address some of the most frequently raised topics, we hope this information will help you navigate the transition to a fresh food diet with confidence
Concern: My Pet Isn’t Drinking Water After Switching to a Fresh Diet
Fresh food diets, such as raw or gently cooked meals, have a high moisture content, unlike dry kibble diets which typically contain less than 10% moisture. Dry kibble often leaves pets sub-clinically dehydrated, leading them to seek out additional water. However, fresh food diets provide ample moisture directly from the food, which is an excellent source of hydration. So, if your pet is drinking less water after switching to a fresh diet, it’s completely normal and indicates that they are likely well-hydrated.
Regardless of this decreased thirst, always offer plenty of fresh, clean water daily. You can also increase hydration by adding bone broth or raw goat milk to your pet’s meals. Signs of dehydration include lethargy, loss of appetite, excessive panting, dry and/or pale nose, and gums. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately.
Concern: Changes in Bowel Movements After Switching to a Fresh Diet
It’s quite common for pets to experience changes in their bowel movements when transitioning to a fresh food diet. One noticeable change is that they may poop less often or have smaller stools. This is entirely expected and can be attributed to the improved digestibility and nutrient utilization of fresh food.
Unlike many commercial diets that contain ingredients the body struggles to process, fresh food diets provide highly concentrated and easily digestible components. These nutrients are efficiently broken down and utilized by the body, resulting in minimal waste at the end of the digestive process. Consequently, pets on fresh food diets may have fewer and smaller stools since their bodies are extracting more value from the food they consume.
While the change in bowel movements may initially seem unusual, it’s actually a positive sign that your pet is efficiently utilizing the nutrients from their diet. As long as your pet doesn’t exhibit signs of discomfort or other health concerns, the adjustment in their bowel movements is generally considered normal and reflects the improved nutritional quality of their fresh food diet. Regardless, it’s important to continue observing your pet’s bathroom habits to monitor their overall health.
Concern: Changes in Stool Consistency, Color, and Texture on a Fresh Diet
It’s perfectly normal for pets to experience changes in the consistency, color, and texture of their poop when transitioning to a fresh food diet. These changes can be attributed to several factors, similar to the ones mentioned earlier.
Firstly, minimally processed diets often have higher digestibility and bioavailability, resulting in better nutrient absorption. As a result, you may notice that your pet’s poop becomes harder, smaller, or drier in texture. Some pet owners even describe it as “powdery.” This can be particularly noticeable when the diet includes increased bone content, which provides calcium and phosphorus. A diet rich in fiber can also contribute to firmer stools.
In terms of color, you might observe that your pet’s poop becomes darker, almost black, or even lighter in color. Darker stools can be a result of the increased organ meat in the diet, which is high in iron. Similarly, lighter stools may indicate a higher proportion of nutrients such as calcium from ground bone.
Furthermore, the reduced volume of waste in the stools is a result of the body effectively utilizing the nutrients from the fresh food diet. If these stools are left out on the lawn and not picked up, they may disintegrate or dissolve into the ground more quickly than other types of stool due to their decreased feed content.
It’s essential to remember that these changes in poop consistency, color, and texture are generally considered normal and indicate that your pet’s body is efficiently processing and benefiting from the nutrients in their fresh food diet. However, if you notice any other concerning symptoms or if the changes persist for an extended period, consult with your veterinarian for further guidance.
Concern: Changes in Pet’s Energy, Behavior, and Calmness on a Fresh Diet
It’s not uncommon for pets to experience changes in their energy levels, behavior, and overall calmness when switched to a fresh food diet. Many pet owners report that their pets exhibit a more consistent level of energy throughout the day after transitioning to a raw or fresh diet. They often notice increased calmness, improved focus, and better training performance. Senior pets may also experience increased energy. These changes can be attributed to the significant impact of a minimally processed diet on the gut microbiome as well as rich amino acid profiles.
A fresh food diet, rich in whole and minimally processed ingredients, supports a healthy and balanced gut microbiome. Your pet’s gut microbiome is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that influence various aspects of health, including mental well-being. When the gut microbiome is balanced with diverse bacterial communities, it positively affects neurotransmitter production and regulation, leading to enhanced mental stability and a balanced demeanor in pets.2
Furthermore, minimally processed diets provide an excellent source of amino acids–the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids like tryptophan and tyrosine act as precursors to neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and adrenaline.2 These neurotransmitters help to regulate the body’s mood and behavior by promoting relaxation. In dogs and cats, this can often mean less fear and anxiety during stressful situations, reduced hyperactivity, and a generally calmer demeanor.
This positive shift in energy, behavior, and mental well-being can be attributed to the nourishing properties of a fresh food diet. Minimal processing allows for optimal nutrient absorption, ensuring that your pet receives the necessary building blocks for a healthy body and mind.
Concern: Weight Change on a Fresh Diet
Minor weight loss is a common occurrence when pets transition from a kibble to fresh food, and it is usually not a cause for concern. However, it is important to monitor your pet closely to determine if adjustments to feeding measurements are necessary.
During the initial period of adjusting to a raw diet, it is normal to observe a slight decrease in body weight. This can be attributed to the lower carbohydrate content in fresh food diets compared to kibble. In addition, studies show that ultra-processed diets increase the body’s production of AGE’s, which cause inflammation.6 Therefore, decreased weight is often a positive sign that the body is reducing inflammation and undergoing effective detoxification.
Additionally, fresh food diets provide the necessary nutrients for healthy energy, leading to enhanced muscle definition in pets. We generally observe a short period of slight weight loss, followed by a plateau with no changes, and then a slight increase in body weight that your pet maintains long term.
Conversely, some pets who have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight due to malabsorption may have success putting on extra pounds with a fresh diet. This is because minimally processed diets are often easier for some pets to digest and metabolize. This improved digestion and nutrient absorption can support the body in maintaining a healthy level of body fat and muscle, potentially aiding in weight gain for those pets in need.
It’s important to maintain a healthy body weight for your pet, so it’s vital to be attentive to their weight. However, a small degree of weight change is typically expected when switching to a fresh food diet. Always prioritize the maintenance of healthy body weight for your pet, and if you have concerns about their weight loss or overall health, check in with our team for personalized guidance.
We pride ourselves on listening to your concerns and providing as much information as we can to assist in your pet’s overall health and wellness. However, diet and nutrition are not “one size fits all”, and no single diet is best for all pets. We encourage you to consult with our team and your veterinarian to tailor a diet that suits your pet’s specific needs, taking into consideration their age, breed, health conditions, and personal preferences.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace recommendations from a qualified veterinarian.
- Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(4):28-32.
- Bosch G, Beerda B, Hendriks WH, van der Poel AF, Verstegen MW. Impact of nutrition on canine behaviour: current status and possible mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. 2007;20(2):180-194. doi:10.1017/S095442240781331X
- CANWI Institute. CANWI Institute: Complementary and Alternative Nutritional and Wellness Interventions. https://www.canwi.org/. Accessed July 27, 2023.
- Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-1272. doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.7000
- Ramasamy R, Vannucci SJ, Yan SS, Herold K, Yan SF, Schmidt AM. Advanced glycation end products and RAGE: a common thread in aging, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and inflammation. Glycobiology. 2005;15(7):16R-28R. doi:10.1093/glycob/cwi053
- Teodorowicz M, Hendriks WH, Wichers HJ, Savelkoul HFJ. Immunomodulation by processed animal feed: The role of Maillard reaction products and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). Frontiers in Immunology 2018;9:2088 doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02088.